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Experiences of studying linguistics

While working as a linguistic project manager for natural language processing (NLP), Glyd Aranes learned coding and grew more interested in the technical side of linguistics. What made him want to study linguistics after already having a master’s degree in English in his pocket? How did he make it through his first year at UEF studying online halfway across the world?

- I had started my PhD in applied linguistics while working full-time at Appen, but never finished it as I was recruited to work at Google through the agency Adecco in Singapore. Working in a more technical side of linguistics supported my will to study the field further, remembers Glyd.

Glyd was looking for a multidisciplinary option with a good balance between linguistics and his computational background. There were no degrees matching his criteria in the Philippines, so he started looking for options in Europe. In addition to UEF, Glyd applied to universities in Norway, Sweden, and Germany. The deciding factor that took him to UEF was being granted a scholarship and encouraging words from a former student at UEF.


Pandemic took studies online for the first year

When Glyd started his studies at UEF, the corona pandemic was at a state that took all courses online. Glyd began his studies online while still living in the Philippines. The 7-8-hour time difference brought an interesting twist to studying, as his last classes for the day could end at midnight his time.

- It was difficult not to be able to interact with classmates or professors in the same way as I could have in face-to-face studies. But we made it and I came to Finland towards the end of my first year. That’s when I saw snow for the first time in my life. I’ve settled in well and enjoy going to for example a weekly board games club on my free time, Glyd says.

Even though there is still a lot of online learning due to the pandemic, Glyd enjoys being closer to the university and its possibilities. He feels the professors at UEF are very patient, helpful, and good at giving tips. He also enjoys the modern facilities that make it possible to take classes even on other campuses. Glyd has for example attended a Finnish class on Joensuu campus with his Kuopio classmates present through a big screen in his classroom.

- Joensuu has been a nice change of pace. I’m still adjusting to the more relaxed and calm mentality here. It’s much calmer than the 1.4-million populated city I come from, Glyd says.


Networking in Europe and a thesis in natural language processing

Glyd is an active part of the Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE) network that is formed through the co-operation of 10 European universities. He especially enjoys being able to communicate with people from different organizations.

- I had the honour to be chosen as a student representative for YUFE. After that I sort of became an on-campus celebrity at UEF for a moment as my face was posted all over campus on marketing material about the organization, laughs Glyd.

Currently Glyd is getting started with his thesis in NLP. He is creating a treebank that helps machines take apart a sentence into verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. The treebank will help make machine translating faster and make it possible for the machine to learn more and more while it does translations.

- I chose to do the treebank for Cebuano, one of the 180 languages in the Philippines. There is very little or no NLP resources for this, and I feel that with my work I can truly contribute to making a difference in something in my home country, explains Glyd.


Encouragement for prospective students to apply for scholarships

Glyd wants to emphasize the broad opportunities linguistic data sciences have to offer for a career.

- Many people think that having a language major automatically means becoming a teacher or translator, but linguistics is much more than that. It’s a good career path with so many possibilities. I’m thinking about continuing to my PhD in NLP or computational linguistics – hopefully here at UEF, reveals Glyd.

In the future, Glyd hopes to go back to working in the field he worked in before his studies – now with more experience and new skills he’s gained. He has an important reminder for anyone who is thinking about pursuing a master’s degree but is wondering about the financial side of studies.

- Many young people in my home country are hesitant to apply for scholarships in Europe, since they believe that they are not going to make the cut. I think it’s worth it to apply as you might be surprised with the outcome. A rejection is not personal, but the opportunities are great if you get approved. I think it’s important to just put yourself out there and not waste opportunities overthinking, Glyd encourages prospective students.